Case study

Primate caregiver — Hannah Ivory

Hannah explains how three years of volunteering alongside her studies meant she finished her degree with an offer of a full-time job at a monkey sanctuary

How did you get your job as a primate caregiver?

I volunteered for a three-week slot at The Monkey Sanctuary, in Looe, Cornwall, which is a project of Wild Futures. I loved it so much that I stayed for six weeks before term started.

I carried on volunteering alongside my studies and was offered a year-long internship to work with the monkeys as part of my degree, which I extended again to 16 months. I had to go back to university for my final year, but I kept volunteering. Just before I started my exams I was offered a full-time job.

How useful is your animal behaviour and welfare degree?

My degree fits perfectly with my job, as Wild Futures is a charity dedicated to rescuing monkeys from the UK primate pet trade and entertainment industries, many of whom have suffered physical and psychological trauma.

Understanding their background explains why the monkeys behave the way they do. In terms of animal welfare, the charity works to end the primate pet trade and the horrendous conditions in which people keep them. The Monkey Sanctuary provides a home for life where animal welfare is paramount, through social groupings and enclosure design, so my learning is essential.

What are your main work activities?

My job focuses mainly on looking after a troop of rescued Barbary macaques, as well as capuchins, woolly monkeys and marmosets. My day involves a lot of cleaning and enriching of enclosures, providing a healthy balanced diet for all species, as well as educating the public about our role as a charity.

How has your role developed?

The responsibility and amount of primate care I give has increased in line with my progression from volunteer, to intern, to a permanent employee.

I would love to stay and see how the sanctuary develops, particularly as the UK primate pet trade is constantly changing. Despite a lot of effort, it remains a legal trade, so I want to see it end.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The monkeys have very different physical and psychological needs and these change from day-to-day so it keeps me on my toes. I love to see their confidence increasing and to observe their species-specific behaviour. It shows me just how amazing animals are.

What are the challenges?

Seeing monkeys come to us in such diabolical states having been mistreated by their previous owners is hard. We see monkeys who have been born in the wild, taken from their mothers and smuggled into the UK to live in people's living rooms in cages the size of a wardrobe.

It's hard to watch when you see the evidence of the trauma they have experienced in their behaviour, but seeing them improve makes the effort worth it.

Any advice for someone who wants to work animals?

It doesn't matter if its 3am or 3pm, if the animals need you, you have to be there. The job is physically and psychologically demanding. It's not easy, but dedication is everything.

Unfortunately, you have to do a lot of volunteering before you get paid, but stick to it and the hours worked for free become worth it.

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